The Signs of the Times

The summer months always give educators a chance to renew and refresh. For me, I tend to go back to the big ideas, to the central stories and principles that animate Catholic education and, within that umbrella, Jesuit/Ignatian education. No matter how many times I revisit it, the story of Ignatius speaks to me. No matter how many times I read about the early Jesuits, I always find something to learn from. No matter how many times I read the healing of the paralytic or the parable of the Prodigal Son, I find something that moves me to fruitful contemplation.  

And no matter how many times I ask these questions, they remain fresh: What is education? What does it mean to educate in the Catholic tradition? In a world where Lebron James's contract negotiations seem to gain as much attention as the violence in the Middle East, what does it mean to take Christ as our starting point?

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Though often referenced, I'm always spurred to good reflections by these words of the Second Vatican Council:

In every age, the church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel, if it is to carry out its task. In language intelligible to every generation, it should be able to answer the ever recurring questions which people ask about the meaning of this present life and of the life to come, and how one is related to the other. We must be aware of and understand the aspirations, the yearnings, and the often dramatic features of the world in which we live.
 

When I read this passage, I feel called to be especially observant -- to listen, to read, to embark upon something of a "listening tour," to become a sympathetic spectator to the culture around me. Do I pay attention to the signs of the times? Do I truly know "the ever recurring questions" which my friends and fellow citizens ask? Do I understand the aspirations of those around me, or are they aspirations that I project? Can I sympathize with the guy in the car next to me, the woman at the cash register, or the students who engage in summer reading?

These are just a few of the questions that, for me, the summer months tend to inspire. But I'm curious: What do readers, especially fellow teachers, do to recharge and refresh? What brings you back to basics?

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